Rudd departure really no surprise

When Kevin Rudd announced his departure from politics, even his most vehement opponents acknowledged the end of an era, describing him in near saint-like terms.

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Coming at the end of a tumultuous day in politics on Wednesday, this was a complete surprise for almost everyone.

It shouldn’t have been.

Just under a month ago, former Labor Attorney-General Nicola Roxon delivered a scathing assessment of her former leader.

“As long as Kevin remains in parliament, irrespective of how he behaves, pollsters will run comparisons with him and any other leader,” she said in the John Button memorial lecture.

“For the good of the federal parliamentary Labor party … Kevin Rudd should leave the parliament.”

It’s hard to believe many others on the Labor side weren’t really thinking much the same.

Roxon said removing Rudd from the prime ministership in 2010, even before the end of his first term, was an act of political bastardry.

But she said it was only possible “because Kevin had been such a bastard himself”.

Admired by a large section of the electorate for his diverse passions and achievements, Rudd was loathed in equal measure by many of his colleagues for his obsessive management style and white-anting of Julia Gillard.

Resurrected in the face of plummeting polls ahead of the election, Rudd led Labor to defeat, although not half as bad as many commentators predicted.

In his own electorate, he survived a strong challenge from Liberal candidate Bill Glasson. There will now have to be a by-election and in the absence of an exceptional Labor candidate, Glasson will likely be the next member for Griffith.

Under the new Rudd rules to democratise the Labor Party, the leadership was thrown open. Rudd stood aside.

As an opposition backbencher, there didn’t seem much to hold a former PM and foreign minister, especially considering Labor can expect a couple of terms in the wilderness.

Now Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek have clean air to lead Labor, without Rudd anywhere in the picture.

Rudd, nerdy PM who proved his resilience

Kevin Rudd will go down in history as the nerdy prime minister who returned from the political graveyard.

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He leaves parliament with the rare distinction of having served twice as prime minister, once as foreign minister and three times as a far from humble backbencher.

Along the way, he has suffered some of the worst insults ever thrown at a politician, with most coming from his own party and former ministerial colleagues, who labelled him a controlling psychopath.

But somehow, Rudd convinced his party to give him a second chance.

Voters, however, were not so forgiving, punishing Labor at the ballot box for three years of infighting and leadership turmoil between Rudd and his former deputy Julia Gillard.

In the end, Rudd led his party to a thumping defeat at the September 7 election, although his supporters say he helped the party avoid a more catastrophic loss.

And his final defeat was at the hands of voters, and not the party faction bosses who threw him out of office in favour of Gillard three years earlier.

Born in the Queensland town of Nambour in 1957, Rudd joined the Australian Labor Party at 15 years of age in 1972, once writing to Labor icon Gough Whitlam for advice on how to get involved in politics.

A bookish child, he went to the same school as the man who would be his treasurer, Wayne Swan, although the two were never friends. Rudd preferred to read the official record of parliamentary debates, Hansard, while Swan was more interested in sport and music.

Rudd studied at the Australian National University and subsequently joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as a cadet diplomat. He served a posting in Beijing, learned fluent Mandarin and maintained a life-long love of China and its history.

Rudd cut his teeth in politics working for then state premier Wayne Goss, before a failed attempt to enter federal parliament in the seat of Griffith in 1996.

But Rudd, a stubborn fighter who does not like defeat, returned to Griffith in 1998 and won the seat in an election dominated by debate on the new goods and services tax.

He was an opposition frontbencher within three years, and went on to become Labor leader in December 2006 when he teamed with Gillard to form a so-called “dream team” which ended Kim Beazley’s hopes of becoming prime minister.

Rudd’s folksy style and youthful energy helped him win a convincing victory over the older John Howard in November 2007, ending 11 years of conservative rule.

At first, Rudd remained popular with voters while the coalition was consumed by infighting.

But the Rudd and Gillard partnership was doomed.

Colleagues became frustrated by Rudd’s tendency to micro-manage and complained about a lack of decision making.

So when Rudd’s approval rating started dipping in 2010, caucus started looking for another leader.

His decision to pick a fight with the mining companies and shelve his emissions trading scheme sealed his fate.

Gillard toppled him on June 24, 2010 and called an election soon after. But an erratic Labor campaign – which some believe Rudd helped sabotage – resulted in a hung parliament.

Labor stayed in power with the help of crossbench MPs, and Gillard reluctantly drafted Rudd onto her frontbench as foreign minister.

Rudd’s 18 months as Australia’s top diplomat were overshadowed at every turn by persistent rumours and reports he was hell-bent on revenge against Gillard and regaining the keys to The Lodge.

With leadership tensions at boiling point, Rudd resigned as foreign minister to challenge Gillard in February 2012. Gillard won a decisive victory.

Rudd was rejected twice by his colleagues, moved to the backbench and pledged to abandon his ambitions and work hard for Gillard’s re-election.

But no one really believed him.

Gillard’s stubbornly low poll numbers quickly put him back in the frame and he retook the leadership on June 26, 2013, with 57 votes to Gillard’s 45.

He lost the September 7 election to Tony Abbott, and announced he would retire on the first official working day of the 44th parliament.

“It really is time for me to zip,” Rudd said, concluding his surprise valedictory speech to a crowded House of Representatives chamber.

Peris would swap gold for equality

Australia’s first Aboriginal woman elected to federal parliament would swap her gold medals for equality for indigenous people.

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Nova Peris delivered her first speech in the Senate on Wednesday, wearing white ochre face paint and a gold silk outfit featuring dancing brolgas.

A trailblazer for indigenous people in sport, she was the first Aboriginal woman to win an Olympic gold medal as part of Australia’s victorious hockey team in 1996.

Switching to athletics, she won gold in the 200 metres and 4×100 metres relay at the Commonwealth Games in 1998.

She said her sporting achievements were “virtually meaningless” compared with her grandparents and mother’s struggles to survive.

“I would swap all of that in a heartbeat. I would forgo any number of gold medals to see Aboriginal Australians be free, healthy and participating fully in all that our great country has to offer,” she told the Senate.

“It is my dream to see kids from Santa Theresa, from Gunbalanya, from Kalkarindji and the Tiwi Islands all with the same opportunity as the kids from the eastern suburbs of Sydney.”

She was elected after former prime minister Julia Gillard intervened to put her at the top of Labor’s NT Senate ticket, ousting long-serving Labor senator Trish Crossin.

The first Aboriginal MP elected to the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt, was in the Senate for Senator Peris’s first speech.

Senator Peris paid tribute to her Aboriginal heritage as a descendant of the Gija people of the east Kimberley, Yawuru people of the west Kimberley and the Iwatja people from western Arnhem Land.

Her grandmother Nora Peris, a member of the stolen generation, was one of her biggest sources of inspiration.

“She was torn from her mother’s arms and lived on the Mission of Moola Bulla in the east Kimberley,” Senator Peris said.

“A river separated her and her traditional Aboriginal mother who was still living on country … they were so close – yet so far apart.”

Senator Peris spoke of her mother Joan’s forced removal from her family as her mother watched from the public gallery, alongside the Senator’s husband, Scott Appleton, children Jack, nine, Destiny, 11, and eldest daughter Jessica, 23, and four-year-old grandson Isaac.

Senator Peris urged her parliamentary colleagues to champion moves to recognise Aboriginal people in the constitution, and attacked the former Labor government’s decision to locate a nuclear waste dump on Muckaty Station in the Barkly region of the NT.

Senator Peris ended with an anecdote about a man who gave her a piece of paper to read before the semi-finals of the 4x400m relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

It read: “Nothing is impossible to those who see the invisible.”

The man explained the cryptic message after the team broke an Australian record.

“He simply replied: `It was my ticket to freedom. I thought about it every day that I was held captive.’ It turned out he was a former prisoner of war,” she said.

Constitutional recognition ‘big issue’

Prominent indigenous rights leader Noel Pearson sees constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians as the looming “big issue” for the nation.

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And he is confident Prime Minister Tony Abbott has the conservative confidence to pursue it.

Speaking at the 2013 Gough Whitlam Oration in Sydney, Mr Pearson said there were two problems with the current constitution – non-recognition of indigenous people and racial discrimination.

The Cape York Group chair said while we should do all we can to assist disadvantaged people, it should be done on the basis of individual need, not race.

“A person is not automatically disadvantaged because he or she is indigenous,” he said on Wednesday night.

“A person should be rewarded on their merits and assisted on their means.

“Race and indigenousness should be irrelevant to matters of public welfare and government assistance.

“We need to move away from indigenous non-recognition to a recognition.”

On making constitutional recognition a reality, Australia needs someone in conservative territory to gain the votes, Mr Pearson said.

“I think (Mr Abbott) can carry the confidence of rural and regional Australia and the old conservative Australia,” he told AAP outside the event.

The question would be finding common ground on the constitution wording, he added.

Mr Abbott has flagged a shake up of indigenous affairs and has set up an indigenous advisory council to review relevant spending.

Mr Pearson supported the review, which he expects will find some programs are not serving the people they were meant to help.

“There is a lot of waste and a lot of need that is not being addressed so I see this as an opportunity really,” he said.

Spain heavyweights upbeat on World Cup defence

Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, centre back Sergio Ramos, midfielder Xabi Alonso and forward David Villa all sounded an upbeat note at the unveiling of the all-red kit the world and European champions’ will wear at the finals.

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Casillas said Spain were determined “to make history again” after securing their maiden World Cup in South Africa in 2010, while Villa insisted “La Roja” had the talent to become only the third country to retain their world crown after Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962.

“Our national team is feeling full of confidence, with a great deal of desire,” Ramos said.

“We managed it before and who’s to say we cannot repeat that success,” added the Real Madrid defender.

“We cannot live on past achievements, there is no point dwelling on them, instead we want to repeat them.”

Spain finished top of their qualifying group ahead of France with six wins and two draws from their eight matches and will be one of the favourites next year along with the hosts and the likes of Argentina and Germany.

Vicente del Bosque’s men play Equatorial Guinea in the West African nation’s capital Malabo on Saturday and three days later take on South Africa at Soccer City in Johannesburg, scene of their World Cup triumph three years ago.

Del Bosque has a number of regulars missing, including playmakers Xavi and Cesc Fabregas and centre back Gerard Pique, while Pique’s Barcelona team mate Marc Bartra, also a central defender, has been called into the squad for the first time.

Alonso is making his return to international action after a five-month injury layoff that sidelined him for June’s Confederations Cup, when Spain reached the final but were beaten 3-0 by hosts Brazil.

“Not having taken part in the Confederations Cup means you experience it in a different way with a feeling of impotence,” Alonso said. “Now I am raring to go.”

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Abbott praises political foe Rudd

Tony Abbott is convinced that one way or another his former political foe Kevin Rudd will continue to serve Australia.

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Mr Rudd stood up at the end of the 44th parliament’s first full working day and announced that he was calling it a day as a politician.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded by saying it was a significant moment in the life of a parliament for a former prime minister to depart.

Mr Rudd had been one of the big figures in the life of this country for the best part of two decades, Mr Abbott said.

“As a political opponent, but as someone who has known the member for Griffith quite well for a long time, I salute him and I wish him and his family all the best for the future,” he said.

“I express my confidence that one way or another he will continue to serve our country and his party.”

Mr Abbott said it took an extraordinary person to lead such an extraordinary country.

He said Mr Rudd won an election which pitted him against John Howard, the most successful prime minister of modern Australia.

“It takes extraordinary ability, insight, guts and focus to win such a contest. He didn’t just win that contest in 2007, he triumphed,” he said.

“We must pay tribute to someone of such stature who was able to vanquish in fair political fight someone of at least equal stature.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Rudd was a large presence across the national political stage for some time, and could leave parliament with his head held high.

Mr Shorten attributed Australia’s success in winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council largely to Mr Rudd’s distinction on the world stage.

He also led Labor during a difficult time, and his return to the prime ministership before the September election had improved the ALP’s fortunes.

“This is a tumultuous era in Labor, and with the member for Griffith’s resignation tonight, part of it comes to a close,” Mr Shorten said.

“I do not believe that we will see his like again in the Australian parliament.”

He also said the former prime minister shared a special relationship with the Australian people, and attained a level of “above-politics celebrity”.

Mr Shorten thanked Mr Rudd’s family, saying they would now get their husband and father back after years of lending him to politics.

Treasurer Joe Hockey shared the limelight on breakfast television with Mr Rudd for many years.

“I have seen the Kevin Rudd that many haven’t seen, including sharing semi-nakedness with him in a river in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“I think he is in many ways the luckiest guy in Australia: he married a beautiful woman.”

Mr Rudd’s second deputy prime minister, Anthony Albanese, lauded his achievements – but noted the former leader wasn’t perfect.

“I probably regret the fact that Kevin called me `Albo’ at that first press conference,” he said.

“Now everyone calls me Albo; it used to be just my friends.”

But he said Mr Rudd’s leadership during the difficult time after the leadership change was extraordinary.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne praised Mr Rudd’s passion and intellect, saying he could have chosen any distinguished career but had opted instead for a life of public service.

Mr Pyne thanked Mr Rudd for his friendship, especially while his wife was going through a difficult pregnancy a number of years ago.

“The member for Griffith could not have been more supportive to me as a human being,” he said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Mr Rudd had rallied the Labor Party to victory at the 2007 election and defeated John Howard, the most formidable conservative campaigner in Australian history.

Many believed they would not win that election, and it was no accident that they had secured victory, he added.

But he said Mr Rudd’s best years were still to come.

“As a relatively young man, (he) has much to contribute to Australia and the world,” he said.

“His contribution is still there to be made and for all to see.”

Increased doping tests for Sochi

Tests for banned substances will be more stringent than ever for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the new International Olympic Committee (IOC) president said Wednesday.

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Athletes will undergo 1,269 pre-competition tests — over 400 more than the Vancouver games — while total tests will increase by almost 300 to 2,453, said the IOC’s Thomas Bach.

“We shall be smarter and tougher in our fight against doping than at any previous Olympic Winter Games,” he told delegates at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg.

Bach, who replaced Jacques Rogge as Olympic chief in September, supported more stringent bans for athletes caught doping.

“What we need is the greatest possible deterrents.”

“I strongly argued for a lifetime ban, even for a first doping offence,” he said, adding that he eventually realised such bans were unworkable.

He “strongly urged” delegates to back the revised anti-doping code’s more stringent punishments.

Global sports leaders will this week ratify the new code that doubles bans for intentional doping culprits from two to four years.

This automatically excludes them from the next Olympics.

The measure is seen to prevent another case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which struck down a similar IOC ban in 2011.

In 2008 the Olympics body barred athletes who had been suspended for six months or longer from taking part in the next Olympics, even if they had already served their suspension.

But the court found the measure violated the current anti-doping code, which allowed 2008 Olympics 200-meter champion LeShawn Merritt to compete in London last year.

He had been banned for 21 months after using a sex enhancer, but would have been excluded from the London games under the rule.

He ended up limping out of his heat.

“Millions” of dollars would be spent on increasing laboratories and services for the Sochi games, said Bach, terming the costs “an investment to the future of our sport”.

“The fight against doping is like security measures. It is also about deterrents and protection,” said the IOC president, hinting at parallels with the fight against terrorism.

“Our security measures, and so our tests, must be improved still more,” he said, highlighting the need for increased research into doping.

“Protecting the clean athletes must be our ultimate goal. It must have top priority in all our decisions and initiatives.”

Future food movement gathers momentum

A future, where no one goes hungry and we’re not  destroying the planet in our slavish appetite for meat.

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Around the world, 27 billion animals are kept as livestock. Meaning the animals we keep to feed us outnumber us by almost four times.

 

Pork accounts for 40 per cent of the global meat production, poultry for 30 per cent and beef for 22 per cent.

 

It takes 1300 million tons of food to feed those animals before we slaughter about 66 billion each year.

 

To continue satisfying that need in line with our exploding population we are going to have to double those numbers by 2050.

 

That’s going to take a lot of land, water and feed, and it’s got some people thinking there has to be a better way.

 

But it’s actually bigger than animal cruelty. It’s about an efficient, sustainable and equitable future.

 

In short, life after food as we know it.

 

Rob Rhineheart is one such entrepreneur pushing the future food movement onwards.

 

His successfully crowd funded a campaign for Soylent, a powdered non-dairy drink that he says contains all the vitamins and minerals to sustain life,

 

Investors also scrambled to throw about $1.5 million dollars into the project.

 

He’s even tried living on a mostly Soylent for 30 days to try and prove it.

 

Bizarrely, Soylet got its name from a 1973 sci-fi flick set in a dystopian future where citizens survive on processed food rations.

 

The nastiness doesn’t stop there for Soylent either, with online magazine Motherboard alleging that the factory had rats and that some deliveries were going mouldy.

 

It’s clearly early days for the future food movement but this much is clear. We have to stop eating inefficiently and we’re going to have to learn to stomach foods that are more efficient – whether we like it or not.

 

The Feed airs weeknights at 19:30 on SBS 2. You can also follow The Feed on Twitter at @TheFeedSBS2, or ‘LIKE’ SBS 2 on Facebook to stay in the loop.

Germany’s Klose, Mertesacker out of Italy game

Klose, who resumed playing in October after a month-long injury break, picked up a shoulder injury in Lazio’s 1-1 draw at Parma in Serie A on Sunday.

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“The current situation is Miro Klose will not be able to play in the two games,” Germany coach Joachim Loew told reporters on Wednesday. “He injured his shoulder and will be out for two or three weeks.”

“Per Mertesacker will remain in London and will join us when we are there for the game (on Tuesday),” he said of the Arsenal central defender.

Mertesacker’s club mate Mesut Ozil, who has had a flu virus, has been passed fit for both friendlies, Loew said.

Loew assured Klose and his fellow injured forward Mario Gomez they remained his first choice for Germany, who have qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, if injuries did not upset their rhythm early next year.

“It is part of our job to build up players who can fill gaps,” said Loew, who will coach his 100th international on Friday, becoming only the fourth Germany manager to reach a century.

He said Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Max Kruse and Bayern Munich’s Mario Goetze are his favoured strikers to cover a shortage up front.

“Obviously, it is a pity that Mario and Miro are out but I do not see a problem. For me, January is the cut-off date. If a player starts the new year normally after completing winter training and then plays through then I am certain he will join us in good form.”

Loew said his players would not be seeking revenge against Italy for their Euro 2012 semi-final defeat but he still expected them to show full commitment despite the distraction of next week’s top-of-the-table Bundesliga clash between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

“I don’t think the players are thinking about it yet,” he said. “I have always tried to consider clubs in my decisions but I do not want anyone to come to me and tell me to rest them on Friday or Tuesday.”

“I have told them there are not many games left until the World Cup. If someone thinks they are automatically picked then they are wrong. I demand full speed ahead from everyone. We’ve got a high level squad and there are no free passes to Brazil.”

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Ken Ferris)

Asylum seekers safe in Indonesia

Indonesian authorities say a group of about 50 asylum seekers are safe, after being rescued from a boat which had run into trouble in waters south of Java as it made its way to Australia.

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An official with Indonesia’s national search and rescue agency Basarnas said late on Wednesday evening that all of those who had been aboard the boat, including at least five children, had been brought to shore.

“We’re still gathering information about where they are all from, but all are safe,” the official said.

There had been earlier reports that at least some of the asylum seekers had entered the water as a rescue operation was mounted off the coast near the district of Bayah.

It’s understood the boat issued a distress call at about 11.30am local time (3.30pm AEDT) after having engine and steering problems.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison late on Wednesday confirmed the incident, but added that no Australian authorities were involved in the rescue.

“We understand the incident occurred in close proximity to the Indonesian coast and Indonesian authorities are coordinating a search and rescue response,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

“We understand there are reportedly 50 people on board the vessel and reports indicate some people have entered the water and that local fishermen are and have been assisting.”

The incident on Wednesday comes less than a week after another asylum-seeker boat was the subject of a search and rescue operation, and later a stand-off between Canberra and Jakarta about where the passengers should be offloaded.

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